Social networking is exploding online. Don’t be afraid, say pros, just jump right in to create communities and build your business. 

IN DEPTH: The Social Networking Revolution

Various websites let you do online what you’ve been doing daily: networking and socializing with friends, clients, industry peers and consumers. The difference: Online, you can do it faster, from your home and for free.

Unlike your salon’s website, social networking sites allow you to create pages, make immediate updates on your own and enjoy simplified two-way communication. In fact, you can get your message out to thousands of friends or fans with the click of one button. Although Facebook and Twitter are getting all the buzz lately, other behemoths include Yelp, MySpace, YouTube, Digg, Friendster and LinkedIn.

It would be impossible to cover even the basic features, dos and don’ts of various networks, which are continually evolving. Your best and fastest inroad is to jump in and explore—or have someone who’s adept at using the sites give you a short, visual walk through.

Peter Shankman, the founder of Help a Reporter (which has more than 36,000 journalist members) is nationally recognized as a social networking innovator. His advice is to treat all social networks as tools that you must learn to use.
“It’s not always about you,” says Shankman. “Helping others, providing information and becoming the person they want to turn to is the best way to network.”

Today, more than three-quarters of potential employers check out job applicants on social networks, and millions of consumers search for businesses and people on them. To avoid the wrong kind of publicity, adhere to Shankman’s “preacher, parent, boss” rule: Never post anything that would offend any of those three. Also, only join a network if you are going to actively monitor your pages and update your information regularly.

Once you’ve joined and navigated your way around, your communication power is limited only by your creativity. For inspiration, take a look at some of the innovative ways industry pros are leveraging social networking sites:

  • Maria Bowman, manager of digital media for Matrix (matrix.com), created a “Beauties Who Love Biolage” group on Facebook to interact with consumers. On Matrix’s professional Facebook pages, a question about what would create more interaction brought requests by stylists to post their work; the company will now accommodate that request in 2010. The biggest benefit, says Bowman, is the ability to post questions and get immediate responses: “People are more passionate when they engage with your brand.”
  • At Redken (redken.com), senior director of interactive marketing Rachael Weiss says she uses Facebook to update fans on what’s new, host a contest for new fans to get product samples and drive consumers to the website’s salon finder. Her advice: Test and master Facebook on a personal level with friends before creating a business page, which attracts “fans” as opposed to “friends.”
  • Pivot Point International (pivot-point.com), in Evanston, IL, created a Facebook page for its new Snap Cap “recyclable” mannequin head, who has her own friends thanks to a playful “SWF seeking relationship” ad. The company’s VP of global marketing Ken Angermeier says the best online networking communicates with potential students the way they are used to communicating. Example: His Facebook posting heralds Pivot Point grad Rahni Flowers, who was chosen as Michelle Obama’s Inaugural hair stylist. There’s a recruitment video adjacent to the posting.
  • Tom Brophy, co-owner of Tom Brophy Salon (tombrophyhair.com) in Beverly Hills, says using social sites is a great way to network. “Many people don’t have the time to get out and about; utilizing these websites to obtain business information is effortless,” he says.
  • Catherine Kofler, e-commerce marketing associate for DePasquale Companies (depasqualethespa.com) in Fairlawn, NJ, says she uses MySpace to promote the New York Streets brand by posting news, messages, promotions and educational videos. She recently added music to create a feel for the brand, something you can’t do on Facebook.


Start with a Plan
IN DEPTH: The Social Networking Revolution

The online options can be overwhelming, unless you start with a plan. Pivot Point’s Angermeier conducted a detailed survey to learn where he should focus the beauty school’s efforts.
 
“It’s like any marketing program; learn where your target-market members spend their time and what they’re doing online,” he says.
 
Although Facebook emerged as the best choice, he notes that people expect you to find them on Facebook, not vice-versa. Even though Facebook is free, you need valuable time resources to make it work for you, he adds.

Creating and Attracting a Community
It no longer costs more to get new clients than it does to retain current ones—a revolution in itself. Now, a simple time investment lets you do both simultaneously. Once you join any social network, encourage clients, media and others to visit your pages or sign-up for your tweets on Twitter. For example, add a “Find us on Facebook” logo to countertop cards, business cards and your existing website.
 

InDepth: Salon Q and A

Karie Bennett, owner of Atelier SalonSpa and Atelier Studio (atelieraveda.com) in San Jose, CA, and a 2008 Global Salon Business Award winner.
IN DEPTH: The Social Networking Revolution

SALON TODAY: What social networks do you use?
KARIE BENNETT: I’ve been on Facebook for five years; one of the founders is a client. I was on MySpace but don’t manage it now. I’ve been giving Twitter a test; I use it on my mobile. If I had enough followers, I’d send an 8 a.m. tweet: “We have three open appointments today; first person to book one gets 20-percent off.” At Yelp, I have a paid business account, which lets me reply privately to posters. On our gift bags, we have a sticker that says, “Inspire others, please give us a compliment on Yelp.”

ST: How have you used Facebook lately?
KB: I have a personal page and I created a group for business. On the group page, I posted that I was doing hair at our lifestyle center’s fashion show, and added links to their pages. Ticket sales doubled within days and we sold out. On Facebook, you can create a “global event,” like a model search, so that anyone searching for “hair model” in your area will see your page on the global event page.

ST: What’s new on your personal profile page?
KB: I keep that for friends and salon owners. Recently, a hair and make-up artist from Britney Spears’ tour found my Facebook page because she gets Aveda color and wanted her color retouched by an Aveda pro in San Jose. I already had concert tickets, but she invited us backstage.

ST: What’s your best social networking advice?
KB: Use your privacy settings, so you have to approve any photos posted. You can also turn on and off posts from others.  Respond to everyone; even a negative comment is an opportunity to learn. Use keywords people search for on Facebook and have “salon” in the name of your business. Also, use your brand—Aveda branding has been awesome for us. If you accept a fan who becomes bothersome, you can easily remove or block them—remember, you’re judged by whom you associate with.

At the recent IBS show, DePasquale Companies’ Ecru brand used an over-sized sign to encourage attendees to sign up as a fan at the company’s Facebook page. Once anyone joins Facebook, its software suggests others with similar interests, so each of your fans becomes a magnet for more. To up the ante, Patrick McIvor, Matrix’s new artistic director of color and owner of two Patrick McIvor studios in Bethlehem and Allentown, PA, advises the surreptitious use of searched keywords.
 
“I put white text on my Facebook pages’ white background, so anyone searching for certain groups will find my page,” explains McIvor. You can add ‘best salon in Champaign, IL,” for instance; no one will know it’s there but you, and it’ll drive Facebook members to your pages.”

Ellen Marth, the publicist for Nick Arrojo (arrojostudio.com), a New York salon owner and Wella special creative artist, created separate Facebook pages for Arrojo Studio, products, education and cosmetology. She uses YouTube to host videos, which are linked to Arrojo’s Facebook pages.

“Managing your pages allows direct and relationship marketing; you’re sending messages to people who want them,” notes Marth. “There’s a rhythm to managing social networks. In the morning I update Facebook pages and respond to new fan requests. Don’t post everything new on Monday. If two bloggers or newspapers wrote about Nick, I post one link on Monday and the other on Wednesday.”
 
Kyle Schoeneman, director of new media and markets for Empire Beauty Schools (empire.edu), says Empire’s annual national student competition, which attracts students from 88 schools, was once the only way for alumni to meet. Now, students connect on Facebook before the event and check winning photos from the previous year.

“It’s a great tool to get them excited about attending the event,” he says.
 
As you build your own online community, add client makeover photos, promotions, styling tips or news about a class—just about anything can be posted or sent to all your fans at once. You don’t have to create all the content yourself—Marth’s use of hyperlinks allows Arrojo’s ventures to get a boost from positive blogs, websites and articles that occur anywhere on the internet.

Business Building
To attract new clients and keep existing ones involved, Greg Sarway, co-owner of Spiff for Men (spiffnyc.com) in NYC, used New York-based GoLoyal Inc. (goloyal.com) to create his database of 6,000 names, e-blasts and social network pages. Recently, he promoted a $59-value service bundle (shampoo, cut, manicure, shoe shine) at $39 for first-time visitors, and says of every 10 new clients, seven were from Facebook. His advice: Keep it simple and use expiration dates on promotions.

John Simpson, a stylist at Lewis Hair Salon (lewishairsalon.com) in Pittsburgh, PA, prefers Facebook for business, since you can run a full webinar on it. He also hosts private discussions with colorists. His tip: Link everything together for integrated marketing; the more information you provide, the better.

McIvor created a Facebook fan site for each of his studios, as well as a private group for “hair color nerds.” His business is up 37 percent from this time last year, he says, and in February of this year, he got 20 new guests over a two week period—13 came from various internet sites. The best use of Facebook says McIvor: Post your makeover photos. Bonus: Video yourself doing them, post the video on YouTube and, now, you’ve got your own channel. Between the two, he got 40 comments within 24 hours on his makeovers.

IN DEPTH: The Social Networking RevolutionTwitter, which allows users to send 140-character messages to phones as a text message, should be used with intent. Marth signed up for Twitter in April because journalists use it, making it an easy publicity tool. How do you get followers? Just send out an e-blast and post on your various sites, “Follow us on Twitter.”
 
What’s a good business-building “tweet?” Provide styling tips and original ideas, says Marth. She recently sent a tweet about a new braiding technique, along with a link to the how-to on Facebook. McIvor advises weather-based tweets: “It’ll be humid today, be sure to flatiron and use Blow-Down Extreme Crème.”

Branding and Integrating Marketing
Try to test each social network one at a time, so you can ensure that your tone, images and messages are consistent across each one. Then, cross promote them with hyperlinks, so each can support the other.
 
For instance, Redken’s Weiss recently sent out an e-mail to invite the brand’s Facebook fans to interact with the company’s various experts. “Ask the Experts” pages are integrated with Redken’s consumer website because “at the end of the day, Facebook doesn’t have a salon finder.”
 
Empire’s Schoeneman manages the schools’ Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube accounts. “We link all of our sites to our homepage at empire.edu, as well as different informational sites like beautyschooladvisor.com,” says Schoeneman. “We also produce YouTube videos that we link to our Facebook and MySpace pages.”

Just some of Schoeneman’s advice includes: log on daily, interact on a consistent basis, have a procedure for handling various questions and avoid forcing anything on users; let them opt-in.
 
“Social media is driven by its members, and your network won’t grow if you aren’t genuinely communicating information that’s relevant to them,” he adds.
If you plan to create several different networks, keep friends, colleagues and clients separated. By using different pages for each, says McIvor, you avoid sending the wrong person a promotional offer, and control who sees what. Planning for this in advance allows you to evolve in sophisticated ways you never imagined, intertwining the branches of each network and integrating new technology.
 
Already, Matrix uses an opt-in mobile site (a truncated version of its website), so stylists can download wallpaper images to show clients new styles, then look-up how to create the looks, right from their phones. Now that’s integration.

IN DEPTH: The Social Networking Revolution

Fast Facts


WHAT: Social networks are primarily websites for building online communities. Most combine categories, friends and various ways to communicate.

COST: Free

LOWDOWN ON MAJOR U.S. PLAYERS:

  • Facebook: In December 2008, Facebook had more than 140 million members worldwide. As of February 2009, 18 to 25 year-olds represented the majority of the users (43%), followed by 26 to 34 year-olds (23%). On Facebook, you can share photos and videos, post information, send messages, create and find groups. Don’t use your business name as your profile name; this is against Facebook’s terms of service. You can create other pages to brand your company, products or websites.
  • MySpace: The site has 76 million users in the U.S. and 139 million worldwide. Forty percent of all Americans based in the U.S. are on MySpace, along with 40% of American mothers. It lets you share and download pictures, listen to music, create a blog and send messages.
  • Twitter: This free micro-blogging service lets you send or receive “tweets” up to 140-characters long, in real time. (You can get them over the internet on your phone as a text message.) Its best use, to date, has been for emergencies and breaking news. Research from eMarketer projects the number of Twitter users will reach 18.1 million by 2010 (follow Salon Today and Modern Salon editors @modernsalon!). Forty-five to 54-year-olds are 36% more likely than average to visit Twitter, which got a tremendous boost from President Obama and Oprah.
  • YouTube: Used to send, see and share videos, it’s owned by Google. According to Hitwise, the market share of U.S. visits to YouTube increased by 70% between January 2007 and May 2007. YouTube is particularly good for reaching males between the ages of 12 and 17. Even if you don’t have a website, you can post a makeover video here and e-mail your clients to go see it. Better yet, makeover a client who has a huge social network of her own and let her tell everyone.

 
DO: Use your real name when you sign up—it’s how others find you.
DON’T: Start a group or business page until you’ve experimented.

(Statistics courtesy Pivot Point International’s April 2009 research.)



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